Blue Chips is a 1994 American basketball drama film, directed by William Friedkin, starring Nick Nolte and NBA basketball players Shaquille O'Neal & Penny Hardaway.

It was released on February 18, 1994 by Paramount Pictures.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Pete Bell is a college basketball coach for the fictional Western University Dolphins in Los Angeles, California who is under a lot of pressure because his team isn't winning as often as it used to and his successful program needs to attract new star players and fast, but the brightest stars of the future (also known as the "blue-chip" prospects) are secretly being paid by other schools

Although this practice is forbidden in the college game, Pete is desperate after a losing season, so Happy, a school booster and greedy "friend of the program" will do anything to land these star high school players for Western's next season and gets the OK from the coach to do so.

This includes giving a Lexus to Neon Boudeaux, a house and job to the mother of Butch McRae's mother and a tractor to the father of farmboy Ricky Roe's father along with a bag filled with cash.

With sportswriter Ed (Ed O'Neill) suspecting a scandal, Pete continues to be bombarded by by selfish demands from the players and a dirty association with the booster. Pete's estranged wife (who is a former guidance counselor) agrees to tutor Neon, who has below average grades, but feels betrayed when Pete lies to her about the new athletes receiving illegal inducements to attend the school.

Pete comes to realize that one of his senior players, Tony (who is a personal favorite) had "shaved points" in a game his freshman season, conspiring to beat a gambling point spread.

Pete is disgusted at what he and his program have become. Western University has a big nationally televised game coming up versus Indiana, the #1 team in the country, coached by Bob Knight. After the team wins the game, Pete cannot bear the guilt of having cheated.

During a press conference, Pete confesses to the media about the entire scandal and he resigns as head coach. Leaving the press conference and the arena, he walks past a small playground with kids playing basketball and ends up helping them out.

An epilogue later reveals that Western University would be suspended from tournament play for three years. Pete continued to coach basketball, but at the high school level; Tony graduated from school and went on to play professional basketball in Europe; Ricky got injured & he went back home to help run the family farm; Neon & Butch dropped out of college, but the two of them went on to play in the NBA.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Nick Nolte as Coach Pete Bell
  • Mary McDonnell as Jenny Bell
  • J. T. Walsh as Happy Kuykendahl
  • Ed O'Neill as Ed
  • Alfre Woodard as Lavada McRae
  • Bob Cousy as Vic
  • Matt Nover as Ricky Roe
  • Shaquille O'Neal as Neon Boudeaux
  • Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway as Butch McRae
  • Anthony C. Hall as Tony
  • Marques Johnson as Mel
  • Robert Wuhl as Marty
  • Jim Beaver as Ricky's Dad
  • Louis Gossett, Jr. as Father Dawkins (uncredited)
  • Nigel Miguel as Dolphin player

Cameos (as themselves)

  • Jerry Tarkanian
  • Jim Boeheim
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Allan Houston
  • Dick Vitale
  • Todd Donoho
  • George Lynch
  • Larry Bird
  • Travis Ford
  • Rick Fox
  • Calbert Cheaney
  • Matt Painter
  • Rex Walters
  • Rick Pitino
  • Bobby Hurley
  • Bob Knight
  • George Raveling
  • Marty Blake

Production[edit | edit source]

"Blue Chips" was filmed from May 10, 1993 to August 9, 1993.

The interiors were filmed at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, Illinois and Frankfort Senior High School in Frankfort, Indiana. It was also filmed in French Lick, Indiana.

Nick Nolte would work on the movie during the weekends because he was also working on the 1994 film I'll Do Anything as well. In order to prepare for his role, Nolte shadowed coach Bobby Knight during Indiana's 1992 season to prepare for this role and was in attendance for Indiana's '92 senior night.

During the filming of Pete's team versus Bobby Knight's, the filmmakers had the teams play two games (from which they took bits and pieces to assemble what is seen in the film) and unlike in the screen version, Knight's team prevailed in both games.

Box Office[edit | edit source]

The movie debuted at #3 at the box office (behind On Deadly Ground and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), grossing $10,123,605 during its opening weekend.

Director William Friedkin later admitted the movie was "weak at the box office. It's hard to capture in a sports film the excitement of a real game, with its own unpredictable dramatic structure and suspense. I couldn't overcome that."

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

"Blue Chips" received mixed reviews from critics. It currently holds a 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews.

Hal Hinson of The Washington Post panned the film, writing in his review: "The ostensible subject here is the big business of college athletics, and, just as The Program tried to do with college football, the film's purpose is to expose the corruption behind the scenes of so-called amateur athletics that have transformed the sport into a desperate money grab. But, like The Program, this strident, unconvincing bit of movie muckraking uses our national sports mania to decoy us into sitting through a dreary lecture about ethics and moral corner-cutting. What's most surprising here is that the assembled talent—from the worlds of basketball and movies—is so impressive and, still, the work is so tired. As the coach who exchanges his soul for a winning program, Nick Nolte struts and bellows in a desperate attempt to bring his character to life, and though he works up quite a lather, all he gets for the effort is sweat stains."

Desson Howe from the Washington Post wrote in his review that the movie "is almost shut out by its own cliches. If it wasn't for some exciting roundball action, Shaquille O'Neal's hulking-dunking presence and a wonderfully guttural performance from coach Nick Nolte, you'd slither off the bench asleep."

Marjorie Baumgarten from the Austin Chronicle wrote: "The ultimate moral lesson we learn from Blue Chips is that a ballplayer's smile may be just the ticket when it comes to selling potato chips and Pepsi-Cola but it is insufficient to sell a dramatic bill of goods."

Trailer[edit | edit source]


Blue Chips - Trailer

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